Winter 2017

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14 CINEMONTAGE / Q1 2017 THIS QUARTER IN FILM HISTORY Murder Is His Business by Edward Landler S eventy years ago, on April 11, 1947, Charles Chaplin — one of the central figures of world cinema and as influential to the art of moviemaking as to the establishment of the Hollywood film industry — premiered his latest film, Monsieur Verdoux (subtitled A Comedy of Murders) at the Broadway Theatre in New York City and at the Academy Award Theatre in Los Angeles. Six years earlier, in The Great Dictator (1941), Chaplin had used his universally recognized and beloved Tramp character in the guise of a Jewish barber, and his resemblance to Adolf Hitler, to satirize authoritarianism. In Verdoux, set during the Depression in pre-World War II France, the filmmaker broadened his scope to question how the drive for success in business undermines the personal aspirations for love and a home. Leaving his familiar persona behind, the movie's title character is everything the Tramp always wanted to be: Verdoux is elegant, educated and genteel — a hard-working independent small businessman supporting an adored wife and child. But his business? Taking on a host of different identities throughout France to seduce, marry and murder women for their money. In an interview published shortly before the film's premiere, Chaplin noted, "Von Clausewitz said that war is the logical extension of diplomacy; Monsieur Verdoux feels that murder is the logical extension of business. He should express the feeling of the times we live in…society with all its attending upheavals, wars and depressions brings out the latent evil tendencies in weak characters… He is frustrated, bitter Monsieur Verdoux. Charles Chaplin/Photofest

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